The Ultimate Camping Checklist (CAMPING GEAR & SUPPLIES)

Camping

Here it is.

The ULTIMATE camping checklist.

We’ve left no stone unturned to bring you the most comprehensive list of equipment and supplies you need to make any camping trip a success.  Never again will your weekend in the wilderness be ruined by those misplaced matches or that forgotten flashlight!

Now I know what some of you are thinking – “An alarm clock!?  Measuring cups!?  A Dutch oven?!?  Nobody needs those things to have a great time camping!”

And you know what?  You’re right.  Not everyone will need everything on this list.

However, we’ve tried to make this the best camping checklist out there.  Something that pretty much anyone can use as a starting point for any camping trip they go on.  That being said, if you're looking for something more basic, check out our shorter post on what to take camping.

Sure, you might not need half of the things listed here, but you can pack your bag and head off safe in the knowledge that you’ve not overlooked anything obvious.

Plus, as my dad always says, “You’re better looking at it than looking for it!”

Having said that, to make the list a bit easier to use for those people who just know they’ll never need a Dutch oven, we’ve broken each section down into:

(i) Essentials

(ii) Nice to haves

(iii) Luxuries.

No prizes for guessing which category the oven falls into!

So, without further ado, on to the list…

Essentials

  • Tent
  • Tarpaulin groundsheet/tent footprint
  • Tent poles
  • Tent pegs (including spares!)
  • Hammer/Mallet
  • Torch/headlamp/lantern
  • Batteries/lantern fuel
  • Map

Nice to have

  • Rope
  • String
  • Tent rainfly
  • Windbreaker
  • Duct tape
  • Camping chairs/furniture
    Basic toolkit

Luxuries 

  • Tent carpet
  • Tent porch
  • Brush
  • Electric hook-up
  • Radio/CD player/portable speakers/iPod docking station
  • Alarm clock

Arguably the most important item on the checklist – the tent.  If you're looking for some more info on what to look for when choosing a tent, check out our 4 person tent buyer's guide post.

Otherwise, here are some things to bear in mind:

Weather

Check the forecast and plan ahead. What temperatures can you expect (both at night time and during the day)?  Do you expect a lot of rain?  What about wind?  Summer tents are great for ventilation and should cope fine with a bit of adverse weather, but if your campsite is exposed or there’s a chance of some strong winds then you might want to think about a three-season or even a winter tent

Size

How many people are camping? A bigger tent might seem like a good idea to give you plenty of space to stretch out and store all your gear, but bear in mind that the bigger the tent, the more you have to carry.  Plus, a bigger tent will generally take longer to put up and take down.  A smaller tent on the other hand means you can be more flexible about where to pitch up for the night

Groundsheet

Do you have one? If not, it’s a worthwhile investment.  Not only will it stop the bottom of your tent getting damaged, it also acts as another layer of insulation and protects you from dampness.  Most tents now come with a groundsheet sewn in – whilst these are generally better at keeping water and bugs out, they can cause damage to the grass beneath if left in place for prolonged periods.  The extra layer of insulation can also make your tent stuffy so make sure to ventilate when you can, especially on warmer days

Practice pitching

It goes without saying that a camping holiday is more “hands on” than staying in a hotel. However, the last thing you want is to pack all your gear only to arrive at your destination and not know how to pitch your tent – cue a stressful start to your trip!  Instead, lay out all your tent equipment in the back garden or a local park, follow the instructions and take your time.  Trust me, if you’re going to make mistakes or realise you’ve forgotten something, it’s in the comfort of your own back garden – not at 9pm on the first night of your trip when the weather starts to turn!  If you can, try and find a video on YouTube of someone pitching your brand of tent

Picking your spot

Whether staying in a campsite or wild camping, there are some important things to bear in mind.  First of all, pick a flat piece of ground – it might sound obvious, but check how level the ground is by laying out your sleeping bag and testing it before going to the bother of assembling your tent.  Whilst you want the ground to be flat, you want to avoid being too exposed – bear in mind which direction the wind is likely to come from.  Not only can they keep you awake but high winds will also make it harder to stay warm.  Does your spot have any protection from rain?  Whist trees might seem like good cover, beware that the ground at their base is likely to be harder than normal as it doesn’t get as much rain.  Also, trees attract birds and birds have a tendency to leave a mess on the top of your tent… If you’re wild camping, you may want to pitch near to water – but bear in mind that overnight rain can lead to rising water levels so don’t pitch too close.  Also, still water attracts flies – and lots of them – so bear that in mind too

Essentials

  • Sleeping bag
  • Ear plugs (for light sleepers!)

Nice to have

  • Sheets/blankets
  • Pillow(s)

Luxuries

  • Air mattress/sleeping pad/cot/tarp
  • Air pump
  • Repair kit for air mattress
  • Utility bags for storage

Sleeping under the stars is a fantastic experience, however, if you’ve never slept in a tent before then there are a few things to watch out for:

Avoid hard ground

This is an absolute must. Whilst you can wear ear plugs to keep out the noise, ventilate your tent to stop it getting too stuffy and put on an extra layer of clothes if you get cold in the night, if you’re lying on top of rock hard ground then it’s going to be very difficult to get a good night’s sleep.  Whilst there are air mattresses and sleeping pads you can use to put some distance between you and the ground, the best thing to do is pick a soft spot to pitch your tent in the first place.  When you think you’ve found your spot, before you start to pitch your tent, put down a sleeping bag and lay down to see how it feels.  Remember, avoid areas of ground directly beneath trees – the lack of rain will leave the ground harder than other areas

How much can you carry?

If you’re planning to hike to your camping spot, then you’ll want to pack the bare minimum to avoid lugging around unnecessary weight.  If, on the other hand, you’re driving to a campsite then you’re only limitation is how much space your vehicle has.  Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for a successful camping trip, especially when you’ve got lots of activities planned.  As a general rule therefore, we would recommend taking as much bedding as you can carry to give yourself the best chance of a good night’s sleep

Heat yourself up before bed

A sleeping bag works by keeping heat in. To be effective therefore, it needs some heat to start with.  Whilst your body will naturally release heat (and therefore warm up the bag) as the night goes on, if it’s really cold outside then wrap up warm and get close to the campfire just before you go to bed.  Whilst it will be cold to start with, the heat you bring in with you will quickly start circulating around the bag

Pyjamas

Unless it’s unbearably warm, it’s best to wear some kind of clothing in your sleeping bag. Not only will it help keep your body warm during the night (when the temperatures can drop quite sharply) but it also stops your sleeping bag from getting as dirty

Ventilation

Most modern tents come with built in ventilation. Not only does it help to stop your tent becoming stuffy and stale (particularly on warm days) but it also stops condensation building up inside your tent.  Provided the ventilation isn’t too big, you shouldn’t have any problems with bugs and flies getting inside your tent

Noise

Don’t underestimate it, especially if you’ve never slept in a tent before.  You might sleep fine in your city centre apartment next to a busy road, but it’s quite different sleeping under the stars.  From rain and wind to running water and wild animals, there are plenty of things to keep you up all night.  If you’re normally a light sleeper, we recommend some ear plugs or even a white noise app on your phone

Essentials

  • Toilet paper
  • Toilet trowel
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Wet wipes
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Wash cloth
  • Towel
  • Toothbrush
  • Tooth paste
  • Insect repellent
  • Sun screen
  • Wallet/money
  • Contact lens case and solution
  • Any medication

Nice to have

  • Shampoo
  • Sunglasses
  • Razor and shaving cream
  • Dental floss
  • Lip balm
  • Small mirror

Luxuries

  • Ear plugs
  • Portable toilet
  • Tissues
  • Safety pins
  • Hair brush
  • Make up bag
  • Camera
  • Camcorder
  • Binoculars
  • Guitar
  • Nail clippers

Whilst it’s unlikely you’ll be the cleanest you’ve ever been whilst camping, the last thing you want is to be ill – protect yourself from nasty bugs and bacteria by following a few simple pointers

Hand sanitiser

It’s a godsend for camping – we recommend taking a small bottle on every trip. Use it regularly throughout the day, particularly after toilet trips and before eating or preparing food

Wash whenever you can

Being ‘clean’ when you’re camping is different to being ‘clean’ at home. However, don’t just resign yourself to being dirty and smelly the entire time you’re away.  Take any opportunity you can to have a quick wash – it doesn’t need to be a full on wash in the lake, just a small wash cloth, some water and biodegradable soap is fine.  If you are near water, make sure to wash well away from where any campers are drawing water for cooking/cleaning etc.  Running water is better but if you do use a lake, avoid stagnant pools as this is where bacteria is likely to form

Ditch the deodorant

Leave all forms of cosmetics and perfumes at home. Number 1, you’re camping so no one expects you to smell fresh all day long, and 2, they can attract all kinds of bugs (and bears!).  The same goes for toothpaste and mouthwash – so when you brush your teeth, make sure you dispose of any water well away from your tent

Wet wipes are your friend

If you don’t have access to water then wet wipes are the best way to keep yourself clean. Having said that, even if you are next to a lake or river we still highly recommend taking them – they come in handy so often that you should definitely pack them if you have space.  Just remember, if you do take them then you’ll need to dispose of used wipes carefully – we recommend re-sealable plastic bags for any used items you need to bring home with you or dispose of later

Rotate your clothes

At the end of each day, take off any soiled clothing and leave it out to dry so you can use it again in a day or two. This is particularly relevant if you plan on going away for more than a few days and you’ll be hiking – it saves you having to pack enough clean clothes for every single day.  You should also resist the temptation to climb into your sleeping bag wearing the clothes you’ve been wearing all day – if you do, you run the risk of developing rashes and other skin conditions, especially in a stuffy tent

Going to the toilet

This is something that puts off a lot of people from going camping, particularly if they’re not staying at a camp site.  However, Giulia Enders (author of the book "Charming Bowels") says that pooing conventionally is doing it all wrong.  Apparently, squatting to go to the toilet puts a lot less pressure on your bottom and allows the gut to "open the hatch completely".  So what are you waiting for?!  Grab your toilet trowel and follow these steps:

  1. Head away from camp, and at least 200m from any water source
  2. Take a small toilet trowel – once you’ve found a suitable spot, dig a hole 4-6 inches deep
  3. When actually going to the toilet, squat just above the hole  and do your business (squatting is actually better for your body that sitting on a toilet seat at a 90 degree angle)
  4. Once you’re finished, use toilet paper and/or wet wipes to clean yourself – but remember, don’t just leave them in the hole, take them back in a small re-sealable plastic bag for disposal later
  5. Fill in the hole with your trowel and the soil you removed at step 2
  6. Last but by no means least, wash your hands with biodegradable soap and sanitise your hands

Essentials

  • T-shirts
  • Jumpers/sweaters
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Underpants
  • Trousers
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Socks (regular and hiking)
  • Spare socks
  • Hiking boots
  • Clothes for sleeping

Nice to have

  • Thermals
  • Fleece
  • Spare shoes
  • Swimming shorts/bathing suit (weather dependant!)
  • Shorts

Luxuries

  • Rain hat/sun hat
  • Bandana
  • Gloves and scarf (unless you’re expecting really cold temperatures)

Like everything on this list, how much you pack will depend on whether you’re hiking or driving to your campsite.  However, the following advice should be relevant for everyone

Pack smart

Choose clothes that you can wear multiple times and that are quick to dry – this avoids the need to pack a whole new set of clothes for each day

Weather

Like when choosing which tent to pack, planning your clothes based on anticipated weather conditions is key. Check the forecast for what you can expect – particularly night time temperatures and whether any wind or rain is forecast.  But remember, you can never rely on the forecast 100% so prepare for the unexpected

Layers

Choosing clothes that allow you to layer up and down means you can avoid packing larger items without compromising on comfort and warmth.  The reason it's so effective is because the air between each layer gets trapped and starts to heat up, acting as an insulator. Start with base layers – these are the items of clothing which are in contact with your skin.  Their job is to wick the sweat from your skin to keep you comfortable whilst working up a sweat and stop you feeling damp.  Next plan your mid-layers – these are every day clothes such as trousers, shorts and t-shirts.  As a general rule, think lightweight and durable.  Next is your insulation layer.  This would be things that provide an extra bit of warmth whilst still being breathable to allow sweat and excess heat to escape. Items such as fleeces and sweaters made from wool are a good shout – wool stays warm even when wet.  Last you have your outer layers.  These protect you from wind and rain – try to pick clothes made from breathable materials (e.g. PVC) to keep you comfortable when hiking in the rain

Synthetics

When it comes to camping, always go for synthetic clothing over cotton – cotton clothes take much longer to dry which is not what you want when you’re expecting rain or planning to wash clothes whilst camping

Essentials

  • Stove with fuel/propane, or, matches/lighter
  • Campfire grill/BBQ grill
  • Charcoal/firewood/buddy burner
  • Cool box
  • Thermos
  • Fire starters/old newspapers
  • Plates & bowls (paper or plastic)
  • Cutlery
  • Trash bags
  • Pots/frying pans
  • Bottle opener
  • Can opener
  • Cups/mugs
  • Napkins/kitchen roll
  • Tongs

Nice to have

  • Large water jug & water bucket
  • Ice
  • Paper towels
  • Washing up liquid
  • Containers for food storage
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Skewers/grill forks
  • Ziploc bags
  • Dish towel
  • Brillo pad

Luxuries

  • Dutch oven/tin can stove/box oven
  • Tablecloth/thumb tacks/clips
  • Condiments
  • Measuring cups
  • Heavy-duty aluminium foil
  • Cooking oil/Pam spray
  • Potholders/oven mitts
  • Camping table
  • Dutch oven
  • Pie irons
  • Mixing bowl
  • Chopping board
  • Water filter/purifier
  • Water purification tablets
  • Colander
  • Spatula
  • Wooden spoon

Rustling up a feast on an open fire after a long day hiking or exploring is without doubt one of the highlights of camping.  If you're looking for more information check out our awesome post - "an introduction to campfire cooking"!  In the meantime, here are our top tips for hosting the perfect camp cookout

Essentials

  1. Fire – if you don’t have heat, you can’t cook food.  Think about how you plan to heat up your food – camping stoves are great and can save a lot of time trying to get a fire going, especially when it’s damp, but might not be practical if you’re trying to travel light.  If you plan to cook on an open fire, then you’ll need matches and some kindling
  2. Pots and pans – to be able to cook most dishes you’ll want to take a medium to large pot and pan, some foil and your campfire grill
  3. Tongs – that fire’s gonna be hot so when it’s time to take the food off the heat you’ll want your tongs handy!

Cooking on a fire

There are two main ways to cook your food on the camp fire. The first involves cooking your food in the coals of the fire.  For this option, let your fire burn until you’re left with white hot coals.  Wrap your food in aluminium foil and place it amongst the coals (remember to use your tongs!).  The second option involves cooking your food on a grill above the hot coals.  Whilst the first option is generally quicker, it does involve removing the food regularly to check on it – when you cook on the grill it’s much easier to see as you go along

Plan ahead

Don’t wait until the day before or the day you leave to start planning your meals. Start planning in advance how many mouths you have to feed and how many meals you need to prepare.  If possible, do as much of the prep work in your own kitchen and take it with you.  Things like measuring out ingredients can be done in advance – not only does it save you time at the camp site, it also saves you carrying unnecessary weight.  Also, don’t count on there being shops on the way/nearby your camp site – buy all your essentials before you set off

Pre-made meals

This ties into planning ahead – if you can, make some meals at home which you can freeze and take with you to simply reheat for dinner. Things like soups, stews and casseroles are great for this as they can easily be reheated in a pot over the fire or camping stove

Frozen meat

If you’re planning to take any meat, freeze it before you leave and place it in your cool box. Not only will it last longer from being frozen, it also helps to keep your cool box cold for longer

Cover up your pots

When cooking, make sure to leave your pot lids on. Not only does it keep the heat in, meaning your food cooks quicker, but it also keeps bugs and insects out

Ice

Take block ice rather than cubed – it lasts longer

Protect your pots and pans

To prevent smoke and fire damage to your pots and pans, spread some liquid soap around the outside before placing them over the fire

Protect your matches

To keep your matches dry, dip them in wax before you leave. When it comes time to light your fire, simply scrape off the wax and use as normal

Washing up

Put a pan of water on the grill along with your food – once you’ve finished eating you’ll have a pan of hot water ready to do the washing up

Check out this great guide to cooking when camping

All Essentials!

  • Bandages/plasters
  • Wound closure strips
  • Adhesive tape
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Cotton swabs
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Bee sting kit
  • Sterile compresses
  • Blanket
  • Bottle of water
  • Painkillers
  • Antihistamines
  • Heartburn/antacid medication
  • Burn cream
  • Eye drops/eye bath
  • Cold pack
  • Latex gloves
  • Blister plasters/bandages
  • Snake bite kit
  • Rehydrating salts/tablets

Whilst camping is a great way to experience the outdoors, it’s not risk free.  The rough terrain, open water and working with fire mean there are plenty of things that can go wrong – all made worse by the fact that the nearest medical facilities are unlikely to be just around the corner.  That being said, if you plan ahead, pack appropriately and know your limitations, you can minimise the risk of nasty accidents.  Here are our top tips for staying safe around the campsite:

First aid

Make sure you and your companions are familiar with some basic first aid. If someone is seriously injured, it can buy you precious time until help arrives

Fire safety

It goes without saying that fire is dangerous. To avoid accidents, try to bear in mind the following:

  1. Prep the area – clear all debris and overhanging branches.  The fire itself should be surrounded by rocks to keep it contained.  Make sure all tents and other flammable items are a safe distance away
  2. Size – don’t be tempted to make the fire any bigger than it needs to be for simple cooking and warmth.  Not only will you use up more kindling and wood, it also increases the chances of the fire getting out of control.  Also, have some water and sand nearby at all times in case you need to put the fire out unexpectedly
  3. Put it out – once you’re finished for the night, make sure to extinguish the fire completely.  But remember – even if a fire looks extinguished, the embers and ground around it will still be extremely hot

Tell someone your plans

This is particularly relevant if you’re not staying at a campsite. Whether you’re camping alone or with others, it’s always a good idea to let someone know your plans.  That way, if something does happen the alarm can be raised quickly.  Make sure you give them details of where you’re planning to camp, for how long and whether you plan to go on any hikes or other day trips.  If you’re planning to travel alone, make sure you carry plenty of emergency provisions as well as a map and compass in case you get lost

Water safety

If you don’t plan on carrying enough bottled water for your whole trip, make sure you take some kind of water purification system. Iodine tables for dissolving in water are a simple yet effective method.  Other options include boiling water, however this is time consuming and requires a reliable source of heat

Plants

Make sure you familiarise yourself (and your children) with the types of plants to avoid and what they look like.  Common culprits for causing rashes and irritated skin include poison ivy, oak and sumac.  If you’ll be hiking in long grass or highly vegetated areas, try to dress in longer-sleeved shirts and trousers if possible.  If you do come into contact with something nasty, wash the affected area with clean water as soon as possible.  To help with the itching, take an antihistamine and apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream

3 responses to “The Ultimate Camping Checklist (CAMPING GEAR & SUPPLIES)”

  1. […] There are a lot of things to consider when planning out your meals for your camping trip:  What equipment do I have? How many people am I cooking for? How long will I be gone?  (For more general advice on what to take camping, check out our ultimate camping checklist!) […]

    • Bruce Wilson says:

      Although it has been a while since I went camping for more than one night, I still thought I knew my way around a campsite. Your list opened my eyes to a lot of excellent ideas that a routine of my own had caused me to overlook when going on an extended trip of multiple nights and several miles away from home. Thanks for taking the time to help.

    • Bruce Wilson says:

      Although it has been a while since I went camping for more than one night, I still thought I knew my way around a campsite. Your list opened my eyes to a lot of excellent ideas that a routine of my own had caused me to overlook when going on an extended trip of multiple nights and several miles away from home. Thanks for taking the time to help.

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